it’s never rocket science

Since we have now officially began the season of political campaigns, we must brace ourselves for even more political commentary and discussion within our homes, other social settings and in the media.
All the commentary is going to be made with serious looks on our faces and delivered in deep, quasi-intellectual tones wrapping collections of words into phrases presented as wise gifts from all directions, not just the East. And this is just the political commentary, hovering above all the promises the actual politicians are making.
Sadly, a lot of it will be nonsense and if we swallow it down without thinking then we will deserve the intellectual indigestion later on.
In the past two weeks alone, for instance, I have heard and read the phrase, “It’s not rocket science…” from more than six different and unrelated people on different platforms.
This phrase is presumed to mean that rocket science is very difficult and that therefore any issue that is rocket science would confound the ordinary person such as myself.
It is true, but in reality I have never come across anything to do with rocket science.
The only people who actually attempt rocket science are people who have studied it in school at an advanced level. Those are people who are so intelligent that they actually apply for the courses required to get into rocket science classrooms and lecture theatres, and learn well enough to advance to become rocket scientists.
A rocket scientist does not find rocket science to be difficult; which means that just before you (if you’re an ordinary non-scientist like me) walked into a room full of rocket scientists the general consensus in the room would be that rocket science is easy, straightforward stuff.
For most of us ordinary people, an ordinary car engine is even more confounding than rocket science, because we have no idea what all those cables, pipes, rubber bits and canisters represent or do yet we have to deal with them regularly.
Instead of saying, “It’s not rocket science”, therefore, we could say, “It’s not a car engine” and achieve the very same meaning.
But also, two brilliant rocket scientists might be equally confounded if they were placed in front of a pile of matooke, banana leaves and bits of firewood, then told to make matooke.
See, because it’s not rocket science.
Phrases like those that go over our heads and are easily accepted but have much less of an impact than the political statements themselves do, even though they deprive us of the more in-depth analysis that sensible political commentary should give us.
The politicians may and can say just about anything they want to – since they say all’s fair in love and war, but the political analysts owe us much more.
Political analysts should dissect the promises that the candidates are making, the viability of their statements and the veracity of the claims spoken at podiums. Political analysts should use the luxury they have of conducting research into the issues and topics that the candidates address, to present to us well-filtered views and opinions.
Unlike the politicians who operate in conditions of campaign heat and excitement, political analysts should think and speak in the calmness of their rooms, offices, libraries and studios, then clarify matters for the general public.
And the media houses that host these analysts, also known as commentators, should begin to apply some standards that spare us rocket scientists trying to make matooke, just as we ourselves should do as we hold these discussions within our homes and other social settings.

the soccer fan approach to politics and society in general

The excitement in Uganda dominating talk over the past three weeks was triggered by the signing of the Anti-Homosexuality and Anti-Pornography Acts, and has been fuelled by the NRM Parliamentary Caucus turning on Prime Minister and Party Secretary General Amama Mbabazi for showing more ambition than they were comfortable with.

More sparks flickered up, on social media at least, from the first Oscar to be brought into Africa by one of our sisters – Lupita Nyong’o. She’s Kenyan, to be strict, but we are all East Africans on this one so, wa’ndugu, Keep Calm.

The excitement has been like a daily roll of Premiership soccer games live on TV!

Now, this phrase here will resonate loudly with most men, because of the pull of Premiership soccer and the hold it has on many of us once the games are on TV.

I used to be under that hold myself – partial to Manchester United for many years, Liverpool before that, and both Queen’s Park Rangers and Rangers FC way, way back. In between I supported Bayern Munich and even Hamburg because that’s all we got on TV.

Until two years ago when I just put a stop to it and ceased tuning in or recording games. The reasons were many – including a need to focus on some local soccer rather than obsess over far removed action, however exciting, and the ridiculous levels to which some of us took our interest in the games.

I don’t personally know any of the idiots in bufunda who have committed suicide over Premiership soccer, but read about them in the newspapers. I do, however, know some who go through deep depressions on Mondays after their teams bomb over weekends, and others yet who spend far more than they can afford drinking up a storm as they watch games in bars. I can also point out some of the calmest fellows in this town who these days display a version of Tourette’s syndrome when the name Moyes is mentioned, like others used to do when they heard the name Houllier.

During one of hundreds of discussions of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the NRM Caucus meeting resolutions and rumours, and Lupita Nyong’o, the soccer analogy insinuated itself into conversation.

Most of the people talking about these things, I charged, were just like Africa’s army of premiership soccer enthusiasts.

Keep Calm & STFU

They follow all the players and games in earnest but can barely kick a ball themselves, can’t do a sit-up to save their own lives or won’t do a push-up unless there’s a beer bottle or a lusaniya of pork at the point their elbows straighten up.

Just like most kafunda political commentators, including the ones on Facebook and Twitter who seemed to know so clearly how the plot to bring Mbabazi down was hatched, yet will not join any political party, have never read up on any political process and don’t even SMS their MP with an opinion even though all the phone numbers are on the parliament website.

Even the people making comment on the Anti-Homosexuality and Anti-Pornography Acts hadn’t read either in much detail, thus the continued talk of mini-skirts and the startling lack of analytical defence of Uganda under the attack of the Gay lobby.

Those chaps clad in t-shirts proclaiming allegiance to Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester (both), Barcelona, Real Madrid and so on and so forth are exactly like many of the fellows in yellow, blue, green political colours. None have official party cards, which can be okay if they don’t exist, but even those t-shirts are pirated versions of the real thing and therefore don’t really support the clubs.

See, the idea is that fans buy club merchandising as a way of funding the club activities – but the t-shirts people wear over here send not a shilling anywhere near those clubs.

Just as the DSTV they watch in bars most times runs on ‘home’ connections rather than commercial ones, and they drink sodas and beers that neither sponsor the teams playing nor the TV channels airing the games. And when they are angry with their team’s performance, they pour another beer and curse the team manager – the approach of so many so-called elite to national politics.

Which reminded me of Lupita, whose Oscar-winning movie 12 Years A Slave is more likely going to be consumed via pirated DVDs than in any cinema that will send back proceeds to line her pocket and allow her to spend millions (US Dollars) as a celeb in Nairobi and maybe Kampala.

Mind you, the comments about her superbness on the day she won the Oscar were massive but from the world over, including a New York Senator or Congressman who talked about her “bringing the Oscar back home to Brooklyn…”

We blasted him quickly and tried to argue that #LupitaIsKenyan and luckily didn’t get the rebuttal #ObamaIsAmerican but I felt that once again we were just Ugandan fans of premiership soccer or commentators of politics.

She definitely loves Kenya, but can’t make a career move to move base to Nairobi – just as the views of all the middle class commentators on NRM issues will remain just views because the party won’t be getting its vote majority from these commentators…

Meanwhile, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City fans talk more about Manchester United losing than they do their own victories, which is not to say that there is anything wrong with Opposition members focusing more on the NRM than their own houses.

When a group of enthusiastic media people launched the Uganda Cranes Initiative last year, the main drive was to change Ugandans from being fans to being supporters, and have them change their chant from “We go, We go, We go” to “We pay, We pay, We pay”.

There is no initiative to turn kafunda political commentators into proper political analysts – or is that what the political party mobiliser is supposed to do? None yet either, to make us more knowledgeable about Acts of Parliament or the laws gazetted – or is that what the House of Parliament is supposed to make us aware of?

A couple of years ago, during one of his jovial speeches that tend to veer into surprising directions to illustrate a point, the protagonist of this past fortnight, President Yoweri Museveni, picked on people who watch European soccer games as time-wasters – especially those who watch the games in bars.

Well – I strongly believe that one of the reasons he continues to be a protagonist is that he doesn’t put time aside to watch soccer, drink alcohol or frolic, and hasn’t done so these forty years past. He is a full-time politician, and many of us aren’t ready to even be serious part-time politicians.

We’re not even in the stands, but are watching games on TV; either go to the stadium and shout from the stands or, even better, get onto the pitch – and if you can’t play in the premiership, join the village soccer team, dammit!